Black, White. and Red all over
What do Cannibal Corpse, MC5, Adult. and moombahton have in common?
Published: May 23, 2012
See OktoRed at Movement on Monday, from 4:30-6 p.m. on the Underground Stage.
Movement brought the world of electronic dance music to OktoRed when he was a kid in high school. Now, he's bringing in a version of Detroit bass music to the rest of the world.
The Motor City's OktoRed (aka Joel Dunn) might be the first artist to play Movement to have been inspired by its music in its 13-year history to want — and earn — his own career in electronic dance music.
A suburban metalhead who grew up in a household where dad was bandmates with Grande Ballroom buddies of the MC5, Dunn discovered electronic music through late-night mix shows on urban radio in the mid-'90s. He soon traded guitars for gear and was on his way to making tracks steeped in Detroit's classic and ghettotech traditions. But he kept one eye on the future — or at least outside Detroit — and his sonic reference points include the slowed-down reggae-house style called moombahton, the wildly popular dubstep and the future bass-juke.
After almost a decade of dabbling, Dunn committed to music full time late last year after being robbed at gunpoint — and it's paying off. Last year, he was named one of Beatport.com's 2012 Detroit Artists to Watch and has a new EP, "Gemini 1," out on the YoSucka! label, as well as remixes for DJ 3000 and releases under Generation Bass out of UK. His first gig as a bona fide Movement artist is Monday, from 4:30-6 p.m. on the Underground Stage.
Metro Times: What impact did the early festivals way back in the DEMF days have on you?
OktoRed: There were three performances that really left a lasting impression on me, Adult., The Kooky Scientist and Laurent Garnier. My favorite was Adult. — very futuristic while maintaining this insanely old feel. I still listen to the bootleg from that performance on a regular basis. It was just real music, no more, no less.
MT: Speaking of 'real music," you come from a more traditionally Detroit rock 'n' roll family, correct?
OktoRed: I grew up in a very musical house — my dad still plays in an old-school garage rock band with all these guys who hung out with the MC5 at the Grande Ballroom. I think one of the guys used to play with Bruce Springsteen. So, yeah.
MT: Electronic music must have made you sort of the white sheep of the family. How'd you get into that?
OctoRed: I actually got way more into metal via White Zombie and then into more heavy stuff like Cannibal Corpse and Obituary, but I also started getting into a lot of trip-hop stuff listening to DJ Shadow and Tricky. From there I kind of fell into industrial music and then jungle. The radio stations like 96.3 and 98.7 were playing stuff like Poison Clan ["Shake Whatcha Momma Gave Ya"] which was more like electro than straight-up rap on their late-night mix shows. So then by the mid-'90s ghetto-tech started popping up and that got me right into the electro and techno and I was sold.
MT: So sort of full-circle. Metal certainly explains the taste for a lot of low-end. I think it's that taste for tasteful extremes. I mean, Mad Mike from Underground Resistance is like this King Crimson/Rush-level prog-rock guitarist who started out in band, which, you listen to how he approaches techno as this sort of sophisticated pummel, you can totally hear it. So how do you start making music?
OctoRed: The funny thing is that one of my dad's friends actually gave me an old Korg drum machine to practice with when I was playing guitar in a band. After a while, I realized I didn't need a band.
MT: How did that evolve into OktoRed?
OctoRed: I started making more glitchy-sounding stuff — not completely IDM [intelligent dance music], but in that vein of electronic music. In 2003 I started working with a classically trained French pianist-vocalist under the name Gauche Kids and we covered Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart."
MT: Which there are like a million covers of, but like a Leonard Cohen song, it gives people a frame of reference and a starting point, and by "people" I mean reference-hungry journalists and hotel lounge DJs — and by them I mean me.
OctoRed: Well, that cover and some originals actually did catch the attention of Brian Gillespie [Blue Collar Records, etc.] amongst other originals, so I guess, yeah, sort of.
MT: Now your sound, and what I really like about it, is that it shows that command of that really authoritative, kind of less-is-more Detroit sensibility — I mean that one track, "Broken Car Windows," everything sounds like it's happening at, like, 3 a.m., I dunno, maybe it's just the reverb — but it's not "techno" in that classic sense. And you've done dubstep remixes of Katy Perry songs, which would be blasphemous if Mark "MK" Kinchen, a techno O.G. from like 1990, wasn't producing super-commercial Pitbull tracks for the Men In Black 3 soundtrack these days. So where does all this, I guess you could call it "post-Detroit," sensibility come from? I mean, dubstep is kind of everything great and terrible about dance music right now.
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